By Akshay Kulkarni (@ImpatientPedant)
AFC Bournemouth picked up a professional 2-0 win at home against West Ham to stop a sorry run of four matches without a win.
Callum Wilson and Joshua King got the goals on a rainy South Coast afternoon to get Bournemouth the win they so cherished.
Moments before Wilson’s brilliant finish in the 53rd minute, opposite number Andy Carroll produced a candidate for miss of the season after a shot which ended up outside the stadium from all of three yards.
The Hammers were poor throughout, exemplified by that miss, and Cherries finally found that clinical edge which has been missing in recent weeks to punish them.
The match was not without its controversy, with Nathan Ake’s bundled finish in the first half flagged offside. David Brooks went down in the box late on but failed to draw a penalty, and replays showed the Welshman was hard done by.
But nevertheless, Bournemouth got a huge win and a clean sheet to go along with it.
The result means Bournemouth draw level with Everton on 30 points, with an inferior goal difference keeping them in 12th.
Pre-match, the rumour mill was working in overdrive concerning both teams’ star strikers.
Wilson has been linked to multiple clubs, including West Ham itself, with his price pegged at £60 million. The Cherries frontman recovered from a hamstring problem to start the match up front.
Marko Arnautovic, the Hammers’ star, was dropped entirely however. The Austrian has been linked to big-money move to China, and manager Manuel Pellegrini decided to not even bring him down to Dorset.
Apart from that one crucial change for the Hammers, Carroll coming in, there were no other changes from their victory over Arsenal.
For the Cherries, Artur Boruc started in goal instead of Asmir Begovic. Begovic has blown hot and cold in recent weeks and has conceded the most out of any Premier League goalkeeper. Nonetheless, the change was a big one from Eddie Howe.
The first chance fell to Brooks in the eighth minute. The Welshman’s chipped ball found Wilson, who got to the byline and dug out a cross for the Welshman. But Brooks planted his header wide, even as the assistant flagged for offside.
Another great chance went begging thanks to the offside flag five minutes later. Brooks was sparkling as he jinked past a couple of Hammers defenders, and he played in Josh King. The Norwegian’s ball to Jefferson Lerma found the Colombian offside, but his finish was wide anyway.
The assistant referee was busy in the first half, flagging another Bournemouth offside in the 21st minute. This time the finish was accurate at least, Ake bundling it in after a cross from Ryan Fraser. But Wilson was flagged offside in the buildup.
West Ham had their first real chance in the 24th minute. First Felipe Anderson’s shot from the edge of the box was blocked by the sliding Jefferson Lerma.
Then, new signing Samir Nasri’s screwed finish from the subsequent throw-in flew wide of Boruc’s post.
There was a minute’s applause in the 31st minute for lifelong Cherries fan Jamie Bird, who tragically died of brain cancer this week. The whole ground, including away fans, rose as one to honour their fellow fan.
There was then a half-chance for Adam Smith a few minutes later, but the left-back’s shot from the edge of the box flew wide.
That was the last chance of a poor first half. The players came out of the tunnel looking for a goal that would liven up proceedings.
Bournemouth were closest to getting that early in the second half. A set piece from the right found Steve Cook, whose header was saved by a scrambling Lukasz Fabianski. Ake’s followup flew past the goal line.
Eventually, the ball came back in and Pablo Zabaleta would have put it in his own net, but for Fabianski’s stop.
West Ham then started to make their presence felt for what was the first time in the match. A couple of half-chances for Michail Antonio and Mark Noble followed, but both flew wide.
Then came a candidate for miss of the season. It was a comedy of errors from the Hammers attack. Anderson stood up a good cross for the giant Carroll, who headed it into Antonio. The Englishman scuffed his touch.
If Antonio’s rushed touch wasn’t bad enough, Carroll then had the goal at his mercy. But he somehow contrived to miss his shot from two yards out and put it high. So high was the shot that it cleared the stand.
Wilson made the Hammers regret that shocker a few minutes later. It was a brilliant run by Ryan Fraser that kicked it off, deep within his own half. He jinked past a couple of Hammers defenders and put in a cross for Wilson on the edge of the box.
The ball sat up perfectly for the frontman, and his arrowed finish into the top corner left Fabianski rooted. It was a superb finish from a player who simply loves scoring against West Ham – that was his sixth goal in six appearances.
In the 65th minute, Carroll missed another heading opportunity after a Zabaleta cross. That was his last action of the half as he was hauled off by Pellegrini, who made a double change with Robert Snodgrass and Javier Hernandez coming on.
Five minutes later, Fabianski was called into action and produced a brilliant save to deny Wilson. It was King’s cross on this occasion, and Wilson’s low shot was heading into the far corner. But the Pole managed to get fingertips to it and tip it onto the post.
That ended up being Wilson’s last shot as he went off with a knock. Given his injury struggles recently, it will be worrying for the Cherries that their striker did not complete 90 minutes.
A few minutes later, the Cherries should have arguably had a penalty after Brooks went down under Ogbonna’s challenge. Replays showed the Welshman was bundled over clumsily, but referee Simon Hooper was unmoved.
Hernandez then had a shot saved by Boruc. The Pole was in good form, punching a corner clear a few minutes later.
Though West Ham poured forward, they never really had a proper shot at goal throughout.
Josh King capitalised on the Hammers’ wastefulness in the 90th minute. The Norwegian wrapped up the win with a tap-in, as Stanislas played in Brooks who had the freedom of Dorset. His ball across found King, who simply could not miss. The wild celebrations from Howe, and around the ground, were ones of relief.
That was the end of a compelling match, and one which Bournemouth deservedly won at the end, snapping a run of four without victory.
The manner of the victory will have pleased Eddie Howe more than the actual result, as the Cherries restricted West Ham to scraps and kept a vital clean sheet.
The Cherries’ next match is against Chelsea on the 30th of January.
BOURNEMOUTH: Boruc; Clyne, Cook, Ake, Smith; Lerma, Gosling, Fraser (off for Daniels), Brooks (off for Mousset); Wilson (off for Stanislas), King.
Unused Subs: Begovic, Surman, Rico, Simpson.
WEST HAM: Fabianski; Zabaleta, Ogbonna, Diop, Cresswell; Noble (off for Diangana), Rice; Anderson, Nasri (off for Snodgrass), Antonio; Carroll (off for Hernandez).
Unused Subs: Adrian, Obiang, Masuaku, Silva.